London Drum

City Cruises – Westminster to Greenwich sightseeing boat

City Cruises
Where? City Cruises, Westminster Pier, Victoria Embankment, Westminster When? Every day Westminster to Tower Bridge -- Every 40 mins from 10 AM to 7.20 PM Westminster to Greenwich -- Every 40 mins from 10 AM to 4 PM Price? Westminster to Tower Bridge -- Adult from £13.50 one way, £19.50 return; Child (5-15) from £9 one way, £13.50 return Westminster to Greenwich -- Adult from £15.95 one way, £20.95 return; Child (5-15) from £10.95 one way, £14.50 return Parking: Nearby car parks Buses: For Westminster Pier: 11, 24, 148, 211 – For London Eye Pier: 12, 53, 59, 76, 77, 148, 159, 211, 341, 381, RV1 – For Tower Pier: 15, 42, 78, 100, RV1 Bus fares Trains: The closest station is Westminster Circle District Jubilee Other nearby stations: Embankment Train fares

Craig’s review… The sun has sucked all the colours from the sky this morning. We're watching the hot trains clatter over Hungerford Bridge and we're fanning the super-heated air with whatever we've got: hats, hands, bags or magazines, looking forward to that moment when the boat starts moving and the cool breeze gets going.

Boarding the boat at Westminster Pier

The open top-deck on a City Cruises boatPhoto: Craig Cross
The open top-deck on a City Cruises boat

I'm a bit paranoid when it comes to boats. When I get on a plane I always like to sit by the window so I can check whether the wing is still securely attached and there aren't any obvious screws loose, etc. And likewise, before I step onboard a boat I like to give it a quick once over to make sure that it hasn't sprung any leaks.

But you can't look underneath it, can you? And when was the last time you saw them sending out a diver to check for leaks underneath? That's right, never. I have never seen them do that. So what happens if we sink? Is it still women and children first? Or is it me first, and then everybody else after? I need to know the answer to these questions before I feel safe. But it's too late to worry about all of that now because the water has started churning against the side of the boat as we pull away from the pier.

Big Ben, Parliament & London Eye

The London EyePhoto: Craig Cross
The London Eye

We've got Big Ben behind us and the London Eye to the right. Once we've passed under the first bridge we can see Cleopatra's Needle and the Royal Festival Hall. They do provide a little commentary with City Cruises but it's not very detailed. They basically just point out all of the obvious sights and seem to be recycling the same gags as the TRS boat (exactly the same jokes!) so they've obviously been spying on each other's act.

Cleopatra's Needle on Victoria EmbankmentPhoto: Craig Cross
Cleopatra's Needle on Victoria Embankment

St Paul's & Southwark Cathedral

After that you pass the Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe on the right and St. Paul's on the left. The dome doesn't look very high from down here but trust me, when you're being buffeted around by the wind on the balcony you'll be having panic attacks. No one praises God from the highest dome of St. Paul's -- you do that downstairs by the altar. When you're 285 feet up in the sky you are too busy taking his name in vain.

Passing St. Paul's and the Millennium BridgePhoto: Craig Cross
Passing St. Paul's and the Millennium Bridge

Keep an eye out for the full-size replica of Francis Drake's Francis Drake's Golden Hinde in a dry dock by Southwark Cathedral as you approach The Shard. If you look to the left straight after you pass London Bridge then you can glimpse the golden urn at the top of The Monument -- close to the spot where the Great Fire of London broke out.

Tower of London & Tower Bridge

Then you'll have a nice view of the City skyscrapers, City Hall and HMS Belfast.

The White Tower at the Tower of LondonPhoto: Craig Cross
The White Tower at the Tower of London

As you pull up alongside the Tower of London try and find the famous Traitor's Gate. The riverside entrance has been bricked up now but you can still see the outline of the arch where they rowed the prisoners inside. The boat will then stop for a short while to let the tourist hordes off and you can take a few pictures of Tower Bridge while you're waiting.

It is so incredibly sunny today. We need to chuck some buckets of water on the sun to cool it down a bit because this is getting silly. The river is glistening with diamond lights on top and I can hardly look at it because the water is too bright for my eyes.

Passing underneath Tower BridgePhoto: Craig Cross
Passing underneath Tower Bridge

While we're waiting a seagull that was dive-bombing the crud on top of the Thames has landed on the railing and become the star of the show all of a sudden. Forget the landmarks. Forget Tower Bridge and the thousand-year-old Tower of London to our left, because everybody is crowding round to get a photo of this mangy old bird with a strand of seaweed sticking out of his beak.

When the boat starts up again it passes straight under the centre of Tower Bridge before heading upstream towards Canary Wharf. There aren't many sights around here so you can just sit back and relax and enjoy the windy river.

Moored-up boats with the City of London behindPhoto: Craig Cross
Moored-up boats with the City of London behind

The boat begins bouncing over the choppy water and is getting some serious exercise now -- I can feel the hull vibrating up my arm and into my chin as I lean upon the rail. Apparently that's how Beethoven used to write his music after he went deaf, he used to wedge a bit of wood between the keys and his mouth so he could feel the piano's vibrations pass into his teeth. I can't hear any music, though. No sea shanties today -- this boat don't know any tunes.

Canary Wharf skyscrapers

Approaching the skyscrapers at Canary WharfPhoto: Craig Cross
Approaching the skyscrapers at Canary Wharf

There are a few riverside pubs that you might like to try and find before you reach Canary Wharf. On the right there's one called The Mayflower which was built on the spot where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail for America. Now look for the Captain Kidd on the left, which is close to the location where the famous Caribbean pirate was put to death on the beach (he actually died in Execution Dock -- look for a riverside warehouse with a big 'E' on the top).

The Prospect of Whitby pubPhoto: Craig Cross
The Prospect of Whitby pub

The third one is a tiny little white building called The Prospect of Whitby which is supposed to be oldest pub in London, but it's actually just the floor that dates from the days of Henry VIII.

Old Royal Naval College & Cutty Sark

The Old Royal Naval College in GreenwichPhoto: Craig Cross
The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich

When you finally reach Greenwich you'll float slowly past the mast of the Cutty Sark before settling next to the Old Royal Naval College. If you stare through the buildings into the trees beyond then you should be able to glimpse the Royal Observatory on top of the hill.

One final tip: If you get off the boat and walk along the riverfront past the Cutty Sark and that brown circular building (the entrance to the Greenwich Tunnel) then you can see all the way back to Westminster. There's one particular spot that you can stand where you can see the Gherkin, The Shard, London Eye, St. Paul's Cathedral and Canary Wharf all in one go.

Worth a visit? Value for money? Good for kids? Easy to get to?

I also recommend… If you enjoy City Cruises then you might like to visit Uber Boat by Thames Clippers (you can walk it in 6 mins) and Thames River Sightseeing (you can walk there in less than 1 min). Other boat rides you might like to try include Thames River Sightseeing and Jason's Trip down the Regent's Canal

London Squire bookThe owns londondrum.com and has spent the last decade reviewing the capital’s landmarks, attractions and hotels. His guidebook is available from Amazon

Related events

This month Bollywood Boat Party on the Thames

Bollywood Boat Party & Sunset Cruise down the Thames

Today Jason's Trip

Jason’s Trip – Canal boat from Little Venice to Camden16

This month Silent Sounds Boat Party

Silent Sounds Disco on a Party Boat down the Thames

Your comments and questions

A Henderson Hi. My first post here. Require your kind help. Can I use my London Pass which has a free cruise as a trip to Greenwich and back?

Craig Hi. You can do. They only work with City Cruises though (not TRS or Thames Clippers), but that's okay. Be aware that a return trip to Greenwich will use up a couple of hours of your day - it's an hour each way. If you're only getting a 1-day pass then you won't have much time to visit the other attractions that London Pass gets you into. You typically have to visit at least four attractions to make it worth the money

HWood Do they have commentary

Craig Hi HWood. They do, yes. But sometimes its recorded rather than a live guide

Leave a comment